For those of you who don’t know, the annual Lean Startup Conference, which is a congregation of practitioners of the principals that are helping entrepreneurs build better startups, faster, was held in San Francisco, California December 2 – December 4. There was an abundance of top-notch speakers from around the country from diverse sectors, as well as, application workshops, and opportunities to get an “inside” look at some of the growing startups leveraging lean principles, such as AirBNB, Rally, Sharethrough, and Twillio.
The goal of the lean startup, is to experiment one’s way towards building the “right thing” that customers want and will pay for as quickly as possible. This means that the startup should no longer work in the proverbial “stealth mode” and should be getting out of the building gaining customer feedback as much as possible. This traditionally can be and probably should be a very uncomfortable process, but in the end, the feedback gained provides us valuable insight into whether or not we are truly building something worth pursuing.
I was honored to speak at the Lean Startup Conference, which included rock stars such as Eric Ries (The Lean Startup & IMVU), Steve Blank (The 4 Steps to the Epiphany), Ash Maurya (Running Lean), Alex Osterwalder (Business Model Generation), Marc Andreessen (Andreessen Horowitz), Drew Houston (Dropbox), and many more. I specifically addressed the issue of #GetOutOfTheBuilding, which inherently means actually getting in front of live, breathing customers for purposes of course correcting or affirming feedback. This “uncomfortable” issue isn’t regulated to just certain groups of people or a class of entrepreneurs, but it is the tying thread of building relationships with potential early adopters and the beginnings of understanding if we truly are not wasting our time. What we risk by not getting out of the building is an opportunity to both pursue our next best idea and to achieve validated learning by listening to our customers.
There were many aspects of my talk that resonated with the global audience that numbered in the tens of thousands – both in person and those connected via livestream, but below are the takeaways that hit home the most based upon in-person feedback, conversations, retweets, and blog postings from the conference. I would encourage you to join the conversation on Twitter at #GetOutOfTheBuilding and take a look at the video from the conference here: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/the-lean-startup-conference-12-3-12
- Don’t Ask Your Uncle…or your mom, dad, brother, sister, boyfriend or girlfriend or anybody that you know who will give you a pat-on-your-back and unintentionally provide you false positive feedback. The reality is that your first version likely won’t look anything like your final version – so #GetOutOfTheBuilding and seek honest feedback from real, potential customers.
- Get Uncomfortable. If talking to strangers about something that you are passionate about doesn’t make you a little uncomfortable, then you probably aren’t human. It’s not easy to reveal to the world our beautiful “baby” and become vulnerable while being receptive enough to listen to feedback. Entrepreneurship takes being bold, while balanced with humility and coach-ability. #GetOutOfTheBuilding and get your new idea or demo in the hands of your potential customers as a way to observe their reaction – don’t worry, the one’s who actually provide you feedback are likely the one’s who care the most and see the greatest potential in the value your product could deliver.
- Missed Opportunities: What we risk by not getting out of the building is a lot of wasted time – wouldn’t you rather know early, where the personal investment isn’t as high, that you are investing all your time into an idea that SUCKS? It is better to learn quickly what works and what doesn’t so that if the idea is not worth persevering through or pivoting that you can move on to your next best idea. What is even more important is what’s gained – the learning associated with understanding what customers want and will pay for as quickly as possible.
Stay tuned to my next blog posts which will be about what I actually learned from being immersed within San Francisco and amongst entrepreneurs for the last few days, as well as, how I will make the case that other cities shouldn’t try to be Silicon Valley, but rather Just Do You!